Nicholas Black Elk

Nicholas Black Elk

Many people from around the world know of the stories and spiritual teachings of Nicholas Black Elk (1863-1950), a revered holy man among the Oglala Lakota.

What is less well known is that Black Elk was also a leader right here at Red Cloud, as a part of the parish community that continues to celebrate his memory and keep his voice alive today.

During the second half of his life, Nicholas Black Elk become a practicing Catholic—and then ultimately a catechist or religious teacher—sharing with others his conviction in the parallels between Lakota and Catholic spirituality. To honor the gifts that he brought to his community and to the Church itself, the Diocese of Rapid City formally nominated Black Elk for canonization—the process of becoming a saint.

Learn more about Nicholas Black Elk:


New Documentary

"Walking the Good Red Road: Nicholas Black Elk's Journey to Sainthood"


Stream the 1-hour Black Elk documentary, “Walking the Good Red Road: Nicholas Black Elk’s Journey to Sainthood” any time. This retelling of Black Elk’s life and legacy relies heavily on archival photographs and publications, expert interviews, and historical reenactments on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. In so doing, it goes beyond the book, Black Elk Speaks, and encompasses his entire life and legacy culminating with his family’s request that the Catholic Church declare him a saint.

According to records from the Diocese of Rapid City, Black Elk was born around 1865. He came from a family of medicine men and he carried on their work. He was at the Battle of Little Big Horn close to the Montana-Wyoming border in 1876. Around 1877, he joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show and toured in Europe. He returned to the United States in 1889.

Through his interaction with Jesuit priests, he converted to the Catholic faith and was baptized on December 6, 1904, the feast of St. Nicholas. One biographer said he took the name Nicholas because he was inspired by the saint’s generosity.

For more information about the documentary, air times, or streaming, contact Becky Berreth at the Diocese of Rapid City, 605-343-3541 ext. 2225.